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Photo by Austinmurphy | CC BY-SA 3.0

Penn Medicine researchers have found a method that may allow cancer patients to receive radiation therapy in less than one second.

Penn Medicine researchers have developed a method that may allow cancer patients to receive radiation therapy in less than one second rather than over the typical week-long period.

The researchers used proton radiation to generate “one rapid treatment" known as FLASH radiotherapy, according to Penn Medicine News. They found that using protons instead of the traditional photons or electrons, which do not penetrate deeply enough into tumors, is feasible. Researchers also discovered that FLASH causes less damage to healthy tissue while having the same effect on tumors as other traditional types of radiotherapy.

FLASH provides cancer patients an entire course of radiotherapy in one swift treatment, Penn Medicine News reported. The technology has not yet undergone clinical trials for human patients, according to Live Science.

Penn Med researchers are not the first to attempt to find a way to give an entire radiation treatment in a matter of seconds, according to Penn Today. Some teams have tried using electrons, which are unable to properly reach internal tumors. Other teams have experimented with conventional photons, but current technology cannot generate the necessary dosage of the particle, Penn Medicine News reported. 

According to Penn Today, the Penn team utilized available accelerators for protons that will theoretically penetrate internal tumors in less than one second. The team also developed tools to generate and measure the radiation doses using the protons. 

“This is the first time anyone has published findings that demonstrate the feasibility of using protons – rather than electrons – to generate FLASH doses, with an accelerator currently used for clinical treatments,” James Metz, the study’s senior co-author and director of the Roberts Proton Therapy Center, told Penn Medicine News.

The report was published on Jan. 9 in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, and Physics.

In June, Penn Medicine received a $12 million grant from The Mark Foundation for Cancer Research to research radiotherapy for cancer patients. The grant established The Mark Foundation Center for Immunotherapy, Immune Signaling, and Radiation within the Abramson Cancer Center, which studies the link between radiation and immunotherapy.

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